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Arcadia: A Play Paperback – September 24, 1994

4.3 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“There's no doubt about it. 'Arcadia' is Tom Stoppard's richest, most ravishing comedy to date, a play of wit, intellect, language, brio and ... emotion. It's like a dream of levitation: you're instantaneously aloft, soaring, banking, doing loop-the-loops and then, when you think you're about to plummet to earth, swooping to a gentle touchdown of not easily described sweetness and sorrow.” ―Vincent Canby, The New York Times

From the Back Cover

In a large country house in Derbyshire in April 1809 sit Lady Thomasina Coverly, aged thirteen, and her tutor, Septimus Hodge. Through the window may be seen some of the '500 acres inclusive of lake' where Capability Brown's idealized landscape is about to give way to the 'picturesque' Gothic style: 'everything but vampires', as the garden historian Hannah Jarvis remarks to Bernard Nightingale when they stand in the same room 180 years later.

Bernard has arrived to uncover the scandal which is said to have taken place when Lord Byron stayed at Sidley Park.

Tom Stoppard's absorbing play takes us back and forth between the centuries and explores the nature of truth and time, the difference between the Classical and the Romantic temperament, and the disruptive influence of sex on our orbits in life -- 'the attraction which Newton left out'.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (September 24, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571169341
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571169344
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Stoppard is the author of such seminal works as Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Travesties, Every Good Boy Deserves a Favor, Arcadia, Jumpers, The Real Thing, and The Invention of Love.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I've been trying to get away from the sort of highbrow self-referential philosophical literature that one thinks of when they hear the name Stoppard, but after reading Arcadia I found that this reputation proved to be only half the story.
Don't get me wrong-- Arcadia is an intellectual work of drama. It can be read and analyzed for symbolism and layering and all the fun that one typically associates with "Great Literature". Stoppard demands elementary knowledge of thermodynamics (entropy), modern mathematics (iterations and chaos theory), gardening history (Classic/Romantic), and literary history (Byron, Romanticism, etc.) There is tons of symbolism and contrast and notions about human nature. But despite all the intellectual games and word play, Arcadia manages to retain a profound sense of humanness.
The characters are vibrant and full of desire. They are not merely facades through which Stoppard can show off his literary prowess. Arcadia is simply a wonderful story. In the end, one cares about the characters and this is what redeems the play from mere intellectual showmanship. The plot moves and weaves and twists and if you can follow it, the play is truly rewarding.
My only misgiving is that I never got to see Arcadia in production. The last scene incorporates two different time periods on the same stage as they couples dance side by side in almost mirror image. I would have loved to see it done on stage and I'm eagerly awaiting an Arcadia revival.
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Arcadia is a masterpiece!
Only Stoppard could weave modern physics, classical literature, piercing wit, sensuous history, astounding absurdities, and sparkling innocence into a web so fresh, so complex, so deeply touching as to open a doorway into the hidden engine-rooms under the world.
I say none of this lightly. I have read many plays and none have succeeded in moving me--mind, body, and soul--the way Arcadia has.
Let the intellectual acrobatics wash over you if that is not your cup of tea, but read it, nonetheless.
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Format: Paperback
Stoppard again weaves philosophy, science, history and literature into a drama. Although the play is really about the second law of thermodynamics (which says that the universe is gradually becoming more, not less, diffuse and chaotic), we get a merry dose of literature (Byron). There is an oblique nod to Lady Ada Lovelace, Byron's daughter, who worked with mathematician Charles Babbage in developing the theory of the programmable computer. That nod is manifest as the budding genius Thomasina, who works out theromodynamics and chaos theory (in the early 19th Century!) as the landscape gardeners outside gradually follow romanticism and turn her mother's manicured garden into a more natural (read chaotic) environment.
The real surprise comes when the the early 19th century scene is invaded by 20th century characters who are trying to piece together exactly what happened here nearly 200 years previously. A doomed enterprise, Thomasina could have told them. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says you cannot recapture the past.
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Format: Paperback
A widely-acknowledged master of his craft, Tom Stoppard again displays his genius in "Arcadia". Although many tend to concentrate on the brilliant ways in which he includes science, mathematics, literature, history, and philosophy in the text, what most strikes me is the complicated, fascinating way in which he tells a story and creates characters, lest we forget that this is still a play that strives to entertain as well as enlighten.
Probably the most interesting aspect of "Arcadia" is the use of a double plot structure, in which two disparate plots unfurl in the same room at the same time, but in completely different eras in history. It would perhaps be more conducive to an understanding of the play to see it, rather than merely read it, yet a thorough read reveals many of the witty remarks, nuances of character, and subtext not entirely apparent in a performance, at least the first time around. What you realize further in a close reading of the play is the ingenious way in which Stoppard structures plot and character. Each character has a complicated, interesting relationship with each of the other characters, and each subplot plays itself out masterfully by the play's conclusion. Stoppard has created complex, inspired, real characters with human wants, needs, desires, and motivations, and they enthrall the reader/audience.
Infused with wit, wisdom, and wonder, "Arcadia" is a must-read, must-see work of art.
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Format: Paperback
I just recently attended a performance of this play by a local theater group. During the intermission, I overheard many people talking about how badly this play was written and how it was completely unrepresentative of Stoppard, and it wasn't even funny at all. I thought about explaining the concept of "thoughtful laughter" to these people, but refrained, because my age is approximately one-third to one-fourth of theirs.
I don't agree. I found this play exceedingly entertaining, if I listened only for the puns, jokes, double entendres, and other language manipulations. On a level beyond that, the stories of the characters themselves can be wittily playful one minute and poignantly touching the next. Deeper still were the philosophical implications of what Stoppard said, how the intellectual and the emotional have to meet (as they did, in one character).
Basically, the play is about two groups of people, one in 1809, and one in the present. Those in 1809 are dealing with scandals, schoolwork, and sitting rooms, while those in the present are researching the characters that appear in the other part. It is nice to know a bit about chaos theory, thermodynamics, Lord Byron, and botany (can you recognize a dahlia on sight?) when reading or seeing this play, but it's not necessary. (I.E., if you've read Jurassic Park, that's all you need to know about chaos theory. If you know what a reversible equation is, then you're fine there, and, well, Lord Byron was a English Romantic poet.)
The person with whom I attended this play made a very cogent comment about the play: "If you only get one joke in five, then that's enough to think it's funny.
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